At the EU Home and Justice Ministers emergency summit yesterday the only firm decision taken was to meet again in October to then take a firm decision on the allocation of the estimated 160,000 asylum seekers and to drop the word “mandatory” from the Junkers plan. This is perhaps not as hopeless as first sounds. For a start, the countries against mandatory quotas may well have gone home to announce triumphantly that they have not been bullied into taking quotas of refugees but they should still not be allowed to get away with pandering to racist sentiment. By the time they meet again several things will have changed. Under the terms of Dublin III Schengen countries can reintroduce border controls to cope with an emergency (tick box) and this will have a big impact on traffic conditions. The Polish government may find itself assailed by protests to do something because hours lost at the border will be harming the economic interests of those Poles who travel to Germany to work and do business. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe who refuse to do their fair share may also find themselves losing out when in comes to EU funds being doled out. The EU money spent on this emergency in the countries stepping up to the plate may mean less for those which turned their backs.
Some people have said that even if people are granted asylum in one country, if it is not their refuge of choice they will just hop off to do some benefit shopping. It’s not that simple. Once an asylum seeker has been granted the status of refugee, s/he will only be eligible for benefits in the country of asylum. If that refugee finds work, s/he will begin to build up pension and benefit rights by way of wage deductions. The European Court of Justice has ruled that after five years such a refugee will have the same rights of free circulation as European Union citizens. Illegal workers are a different matter.
Hungary has now “hermetically sealed” its border with Serbia and army units are patrolling the area. According to a new emergency law rushed through parliament last week, it is now a crime to enter Hungary illegally, no matter that this contravenes the Geneva Convention on Refugees according to which people fleeing persecution have a right to seek asylum. What seems to matter most to the Hungarian Prime Minister is winning in the race to the bottom against the increasingly popular extreme right in his country. Many Hungarians have felt ashamed and terribly frustrated by the actions of their government. I was shocked to receive a Facebook posting from a charity in England describing the situation of the refugees in Hungary which said:
” It is generally frowned upon in this part of the world to help the refugees. Unthinkable.”
Many Hungarians have felt ashamed and terribly frustrated by the incompetent actions of their government. It is true that the UNHCR and the Red Cross offered help with registering refugees but were rebuffed and the UNHCR said only a few days ago that they received permission from the authorities to erect tents. (Bit late now, there won’t be any refugees in Hungary by the time you read this). The NGOs in the meantime have been working around the clock and overwhelmed by donations from the public. So just to be clear: it is certainly NOT frowned upon in this part of the world to help the refugees. What I find bothersome is the way the Hungarians are being singled out as the bad boys in Europe when a) there are other countries guilty of at least the same attitude and b) this is a problem that has deep and multiple roots. Number one, the instability in the Middle East and North Africa with the spawning of the heinous ISIS organisation is a direct corollary to the so called Coalition of the Willing descending on Iraq on the basis of the totally fabricated WMD bogeyman. This has led to the inevitable mass dislodging of populations who need to go somewhere and to the continued destabilisation of the region which means that the superpower (there is only one now) can take on contenders in proxy battles in countries where it considers the inhabitants to be unpeople.
Back to Hungary – the big new expensive fence is now up – at last tweet there have already been 45 arrests. The unwelcoming-to-the-max makeshift reception centres are emptying out rapidly, coinciding with the first news editorials which revel in the fact the the Austrians and Germans have now got so overwhelmed that they’ve had to invoke Schengen emergency provisions and temporarily reinstate border controls. This has caused the Chancellor to be attacked by her political opponents in her own country as physical resources to deal with the huge influx are strained. For a start border guards are having to be requisitioned out of retirement to police the crossings. This entails having to set up office buildings and infrastructure fast. On the bright side this has meant the creation of an extra 20,000 jobs as well as the promise of legions of refugee children growing up to be productive members of German society. It is they who will pay the retirement pensions of an ageing population which stubbornly refuses to make enough babies. The Austrians have also had to reinstate border controls to cope with trying to register people. This is not in any way the kind of fence the Hungarians or Bulgarians have and gloating about the Germans and Austrians now being in their shoes is wholly inappropriate. The main thing for Viktor Orban is that he has scored political points by making the problem go away and leaving others in Europe to clear up the mess while claiming to have respected Dublin III to the letter. He was aided in this by the Germans and their mixed messages. When Chancellor Merkel decided to suspend Dublin III rules in order to spare refugees the hell of waiting for days in unsanitary conditions to be registered in Hungary, Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere backed her but insisted that the Dublin rules were still valid. This is clearly posted in bright red letters on the web page of the German Embassy in Budapest in Hungarian and English. Viki must be rubbing his hands …
Terri Potoczna Fussen